Release Date(s)1960 (March 15, 2022)
Studio(s)United Artists/MGM (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
Over the course of Billy Wilder’s nearly 60-year career as a director, he made a number of films that are now regarded as classics, including The Spirit of St. Louis, Some Like It Hot, The Seven Year Itch, Double Indemnity, and Ace in the Hole, among many others. However, one film in particular seemed to be tailor-made for his off center yet still amicable approach to filmmaking while being simultaneously suited for one of comedy’s finest leading performances.
Released in 1960, The Apartment stars Jack Lemmon as the put upon but lovable Bud, a loyal cog in an insurance firm’s machinery who finds himself having to secretly lend his apartment to various higher ups for non-marital extracurricular activities, with nosy neighbors assuming Bud to be a playboy of sorts. Amidst the chaos in his life, he unwittingly lands in the middle of a love triangle between his boss (Fred MacMurray) and an adorable elevator operator (Shirley MacLaine), only to be incessantly regarded and disregarded with little to no abandon.
Besides Jack Lemmon’s marvelous performance as a lower level schlub just trying to do the right thing and always finding himself in hectic circumstances, there’s also Shirley MacLaine, who one would be hard-pressed not to fall head over heels in love with. Her performance as a young woman driven to depression because of her ties to Bud’s boss and eventually realizing Bud’s affection for her over many games of gin rummy is ripe with pathos... “Shut up and deal” indeed.
The film’s look was also not taken for granted as Billy Wilder, his cinematographer Joseph LaShelle, and his art director Alexandre Trauner gave it a vast amount of artistic appeal as well. Visually, the film is a masterpiece, including the force perspective shots at the insurance firm which fully demonstrate Bud’s place in his lonely and immaterial world.
Although it wasn’t as universally accepted critically at the time of its release, The Apartment is now considered one of the finest comedy films ever made.
The Apartment was shot by director of photography Joseph LaShelle on black and white 35 mm film using Panavision cameras and lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings the film to UHD for the first time utilizing the 2017 4K restoration that was included in the Arrow Academy Blu-ray release of the film. That restoration was sourced largely from the original camera negative, with sections of a 35 mm fine grain positive filling in for missing portions of the negative. This Ultra HD offers no HDR grade and, at first glance, the improvements are predictable. Everything appears crisper, with tighter detail and grain, which is to be expected. The less obvious differences lie within the framing and contrast. The same source is used, but everything has been adjusted with most of the image pushed to the left to include more information on the right side. Occasionally, all edges of the frame contain more information, yet the aspect ratio remains the same. Nuances in skin textures and lighting are slightly improved as well, appearing less flat. Darker areas have been adjusted, losing some of the crush of the previous presentation (minor though it was). While Arrow’s Blu-ray presentation was the go-to, Kino’s Ultra HD release is now the definitive presentation going forward. It’s beautiful.
Audio is presented in English 5.1 and 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. Though the original mono is included, it’s worth noting that the Arrow Academy release included it as a single channel LPCM track instead. The 5.1 remix is a front-heavy presentation with few instances of surround activity. The mono track is the more preferable option with clean dialogue, excellent use of sound effects, and a well-represented score, courtesy of Adolph Deutsch and Charles Williams.
Kino Lorber’s 4K Ultra HD sits inside a black amaray case alongside a Blu-ray of the film (utilizing the same 4K presentation, but in 1080p), and an insert featuring the original Italian poster artwork with English text. The following extras are included on each disc:
DISC ONE (UHD)
- Audio Commentary with Joseph McBride
- Audio Commentary with Bruce Block
DISC TWO (BD)
- Audio Commentary with Joseph McBride
- Audio Commentary with Bruce Block
- Magic Time: The Art of Jack Lemmon (SD – 29:36)
- Inside The Apartment (SD – 12:47)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:21)
- Some Like It Hot Trailer (HD – 2:23)
- Irma La Douce Trailer (SD – 3:53)
- The Fortune Cookie Trailer (HD – 2:37)
- Avanti! Trailer (SD – 2:39)
- The Front Page Trailer (SD – 2:37)
Film historian and biographer Joseph McBride, author of Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge, provides a new audio commentary (as he did for the 4K Ultra HD release of Some Like It Hot), detailing many facets of the film, including backgrounds on members of the cast and crew, especially Wilder. He also reads various reviews written about the film at the time, many of which are fascinatingly off the mark. It’s yet another solid, entertaining, and informative track. Also included is the 2008 audio commentary featuring film historian Bruce Block, which is also quite good. Next is a pair of archival featurettes, Inside the Apartment and Magic Time: The Art of Jack Lemmon. Last is the original theatrical trailer, and trailers for other Kino Lorber releases.
A number of extras from the Arrow Academy Blu-ray release have not been carried over, including The Key to The Apartment, an appreciation of the film by film historian Philip Kemp; Kemp discussing two of the film’s key scenes via an additional audio commentary; The Flawed Couple, an essay on the film by filmmaker David Cairns; A Letter to Castro, an interview with actress Hope Holiday; An Informal Conversation with Billy Wilder, an archival interview with Wilder from the Writers Guild Foundation’s Oral Histories series, which is partially narrated by Jack Lemmon; the aforementioned Restoration Showreel; the film’s original screenplay in .PDF form via BD-ROM; and The Apartment: Selected Writings, a 150-page hardcover booklet with the essays Sweet and Sour: The Greatness of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment by Neil Sinyard, Broken Mirrors: Illusion and Disillusion in Billy Wilder’s “Diamond Comedies” by Kat Ellinger, and “Shut Up and Deal”: The Changing Candor of 1960s Hollywood Cinema... Morality-Wise by Travis Crawford and Heather Hyche, as well as restoration details.
Almost sixty years since its release, The Apartment still feels as fresh and irreverent as ever. The setting is certainly dated, but its amusing and romantic nature have never waned. It was nominated for many Academy Awards, winning for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, and Best Art Direction (as well as additional BAFTA wins for Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine). It also managed to do double its business at the box office. It’s certainly a film with legs that continues age beautifully. Though Kino Lorber’s 4K Ultra HD lacks many of the extras from Arrow Academy’s Blu-ray release, it’s a worthy upgrade nonetheless. Highly recommended!
- Tim Salmons